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Monday, 28 July 2008


The French Revolution of 1789 changed everything for ambitious young officer Napoleon Bonaparte. The ancien régime vanished and there were new opportunities for those prepared to risk everything. Although Corsican-born Bonaparte held the bloodthirsty Jacobin mob in contempt, he decided his best chance of achieving glory was in the service of the new French nation. You can read more about Europe’s bogeyman in Napoleon: Child of the Revolution, my feature for the July issue of Jane Austen's Regency World .

Would Napoleon ever have achieved such amazing power if the French Revolution hadn’t taken place? Just one of history’s many ‘What if?’ questions to which we’ll never know the answer.

The effects of the Napoleonic wars were felt all over Britain, even as far away as Orkney, where Martello Towers were built c.1814 to protect English shipping from French and American privateers. Attacks by French ships in the Channel meant English merchant ships were forced to take Northern routes around Scotland to reach trading centres. Only three towers were constructed in Scotland, such as this one on Hoy, but over 100 were built along the English South coast. The magical Orkney isles are next on my list of favourite holiday destinations.

Photo: Hackness Martello Tower, Hoy, Orkney. Image © Nigel Wilkes
‘Napoleon crossing the Alps’: History of England, Vol. VII, (London, c. 1868.)
‘Napoleon’ from an old engraving of a picture by Bouillon. Napoleon: Warrior and Ruler, (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1893.)

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